Build Muscle, Improve Health: Hypertrophy Training
Hypertrophy is the process of muscle growth that occurs when you lift weights or perform other types of resistance training. When you put your muscles through this type of stress, you create tiny tears in the muscle fibres. This causes inflammation and the release of various signalling molecules, which trigger the body to begin the repair process. As the muscles repair themselves, they become larger and stronger, resulting in hypertrophy.
The two types of muscle growth
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy refers to an increase in the size of the sarcoplasm, which is the fluid inside muscle cells. This type of hypertrophy is typically associated with higher rep, lower weight training and results in a more “toned” appearance.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy, on the other hand, refers to an increase in the size of the myofibrils, which are the structural units of muscle fibres. This type of hypertrophy is typically associated with lower rep, higher weight training and results in a more “bulky” appearance.
Both types of hypertrophy can be achieved through resistance training and proper nutrition, but the specific combination of load, rep range, and volume will affect the type of hypertrophy you experience. By using a variety of training approaches and adjusting your training variables over time, you can continue to challenge your muscles and see progress.
Benefits of hypertrophy training
It’s also worth noting that while hypertrophy is often a goal for those looking to improve their physical appearance or increase strength, it can also have a number of other health benefits. Research has shown that muscle mass is an important predictor of health and longevity, and that increasing muscle mass can help to improve insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and bone density (Wolfe, 2017). It can also help to reduce the risk of falls and injuries in older adults (JG Claudino et al, 2021).
In addition to the physical benefits, strength training can also have a number of mental health benefits. It has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and increase self-esteem (C.E. Rethorst et al., 2009). It can also help to improve sleep quality and cognitive function (Driver & Taylor, 2000).
How does training for hypertrophy look like?
Here are a few key factors to consider (Schoenfeld, 2010):
- Load: To stimulate hypertrophy, you need to use a load that is heavy enough to create the necessary muscle damage. This typically means using a load that is between 70-85% of your one rep max (1RM) for most exercises.
- Repetition range: The rep range you use can also affect the type of hypertrophy you experience. For sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, higher reps (12-15+ per set) are typically recommended. For myofibrillar hypertrophy, lower reps (6-12 per set) are typically recommended.
- Volume: The total volume of your workouts (number of sets and reps) can also affect hypertrophy. Research has shown that higher volume workouts (3-5 sets per exercise) are more effective for hypertrophy compared to lower volume workouts (1-2 sets per exercise).
- Frequency: How often you train can also affect hypertrophy. In general, training each muscle group at least 2-3 times per week is recommended for optimal muscle hypertrophy.
- Rest periods: The amount of rest you take between sets can also affect hypertrophy. Short rest periods (30-60 seconds) can increase the amount of metabolic stress and muscle damage, which can lead to greater hypertrophy.
- Form: Proper form is crucial for maximizing hypertrophy and preventing injuries. Make sure to use a full range of motion and maintain proper technique throughout each rep.
- Progressive overload: To continue making progress and seeing results, you need to progressively increase the load, volume, or intensity of your workouts over time.
Choosing the right exercises
It’s also important to consider the specific exercises you choose when training for hypertrophy. While all types of resistance training can stimulate to increase the size of your muscle, certain exercises may be more effective at targeting specific muscle groups. For example, the bench press is a popular exercise for targeting the chest muscles, while the bicep curl is commonly used to target the biceps. Compound exercises, which involve multiple joint movements and work multiple muscle groups at the same time and at full range of motion, are often particularly effective for hypertrophy because they allow you to use heavier loads and stimulate more muscle fibres. Examples of compound exercises include the squat, deadlift, and bench press.
Incorporating variety into your training routine can also be important for hypertrophy. By using different exercises, repetition ranges, and loading schemes, you can challenge your muscles in new ways and prevent plateaus. For example, you might try using a combination of heavy weights for lower reps and lighter weights for higher reps, or mixing up your exercises from workout to workout.
Nutrition for hypertrophy
In addition to training, nutrition also plays a key role in hypertrophy. To support muscle growth, it’s important to consume enough protein, as protein is the building block of muscle. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults consume 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for optimal muscle growth (Wolfe, 2017). It’s also important to consume enough calories to support muscle growth and recovery, as well as to get an adequate amount of carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Other factors that influence muscle growth
There are a number of factors that can influence hypertrophy, in addition to training and nutrition. These include:
- Genetics: Individual differences in genetics can affect your ability to build muscle. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to build muscle more easily than others.
- Hormone levels: Hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone can play a role in muscle growth. For example, higher levels of testosterone have been associated with greater muscle mass (Bhasin et al., 1996).
- Age: As we age, our muscles naturally begin to decline, which can make it more difficult to build muscle. However, this process can be slowed through regular strength training and proper nutrition. (B.J. de Vos et al., 2020)
- Training experience: Individuals who are new to resistance training may experience greater muscle growth in the beginning due to the “newbie gains” effect. As you become more experienced, muscle growth may slow down slightly. (Schoenfeld et al., 2017)
- Sleep and stress: Adequate sleep and managing stress can also play a role in muscle growth. Poor sleep and high levels of stress can negatively impact muscle recovery and growth. (Stults-Kolehmainen et al., 2014)
What are some tips for hard gainers who want to grow their muscles?
If you’re a hard gainer who has difficulty building muscle, there are a few tips that may be helpful:
- Eat enough protein: Protein is the building block of muscle, so it’s important to consume enough of it to support muscle growth. Aim for 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
- Eat enough calories: In addition to protein, you also need to consume enough calories to support muscle growth and recovery. If you’re not eating enough calories, your body may not have the energy it needs to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
- Train with heavy weights: To stimulate muscle growth, it’s important to use a load that is heavy enough to create muscle damage. If you’re a hard gainer, you may need to use heavier weights to create the necessary stress on your muscles.
- Focus on compound exercises: Compound exercises, which involve multiple joint movements and work multiple muscle groups at the same time, are often particularly effective for muscle growth.
- Use a variety of rep ranges: To continue to challenge your muscles and prevent plateaus, try using a variety of rep ranges in your workouts. For example, you might use heavy weights for lower reps one week and lighter weights for higher reps the next.
- Get enough rest and recovery: Adequate rest and recovery is essential for muscle growth. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and consider incorporating active recovery techniques such as foam rolling or massage into your routine.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment: If you’re a hard gainer, it may take some trial and error to find the training and nutrition strategies that work best for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches and see what works best for you.
- Be consistent: Building muscle takes time and consistency. It’s important to stick with your training and nutrition plan and be patient. Don’t expect to see results overnight – it takes time and dedication to see progress.
Remember, building muscle is a process, and it’s important to be patient and consistent. With the right training and nutrition plan, you can see progress and build the muscles you desire.
Overall, hypertrophy is an important goal for those looking to improve their physical appearance, strength, and overall health. By incorporating resistance training and proper nutrition into your routine, you can stimulate muscle growth and experience a range of physical and mental health benefits.
Our fitness app, Goliaz, offers a variety of training plans and workouts specifically designed to help you achieve hypertrophy and reach your fitness goals. It is the only app on the market which will always suggest the perfect weight for you to use during your training for muscular hypertrophy.